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  Council » Policies and Plans » Rules and regulation » Waikato Regional Plan » Waikato Regional Plan (online version) » 3.10 Lake Taupo Catchment » 3.10.3 Policies

3.10.3 Policies

To achieve Objectives 1, 2, 3, and 4

Policy 1: Tangata whenua values and interests

Recognise:

  1. That Lake Taupo and land owned by the tribe within the Lake Taupo catchment is a tribal taonga for Ngati Tuwharetoa, who is the owner of the Lake bed.
  2. The role of Ngati Tuwharetoa as kaitiaki of the Lake and owners of the Lake Bed, and that, accordingly, groups and individuals within Ngati Tuwharetoa ought to be able to participate in decision making processes related to adverse effects on the environment which impinge on tangata whenua values.
  3. That Ngati Tuwharetoa has a unique cultural and spiritual relationship with Lake Taupo and their ancestral lands within the catchment of Lake Taupo.
  4. That historical factors have inhibited Ngati Tuwharetoa’s ability to develop their ancestral lands within the catchment of Lake Taupo.
  5. That the nature of Ngati Tuwharetoa’s relationship with and the form of its tenure of the land in the catchment of Lake Taupo are such that members of the iwi are unlikely and in some cases legally unable voluntarily to relinquish their interest in that land and have comparatively less ability to transfer their interests to land outside the catchment than do landowners generally.
  6. That the unique relationship described in matters (a) – (e) above mean that it is appropriate to enable Ngati Tuwharetoa to develop their currently undeveloped or forested lands in a manner and to an extent that has no long term adverse effect on the water quality of Lake Taupo.

To achieve Objectives 1, 2 and 3

Policy 2: Identification of Lake Taupo as an Outstanding Waterbody in the Waikato Region

Ensure that activities do not adversely affect the significant characteristics of Lake Taupo that make it an outstanding water body in the Waikato region:

  1. New Zealand’s largest clear blue lake resulting from exceptional water quality (as defined by water quality characteristics) in that it, in most locations and most times, surpasses the New Zealand drinking water standards and is of higher quality than all Waikato Regional Council’s ecological health and recreation standards.
  2. High level of natural character of the margins of the Lake and inflowing streams due to the extent of wilderness, surrounding landscape and geological features and lack of built environment around much of the Lake.
  3. Status as tribal taonga for Ngati Tuwharetoa.
  4. Internationally renowned trout fishery.
  5. Ability to support a wide range of indigenous fauna and flora.
  6. Commercial opportunities based on the Lake’s natural features and values, which provide local and national economic benefit.

To achieve Objectives 1, 2 and 4

Policy 3: Cap nitrogen outputs from land in the catchment

Avoid catchment-wide increases of nitrogen leaching from land by placing limits on the annual average amount of nitrogen leached by:

  1. Enabling low nitrogen leaching activities, within specified nitrogen limits.
  2. Managing other nitrogen leaching activities using the OVERSEERTM model to determine nitrogen discharge allowances for each individual property, based on the single best year (year with the highest leaching value) of nitrogen leached between July 2001 and June 2005, and on an ongoing basis, manage the annual average of nitrogen leached through Nitrogen Management Plans.
  3. All consents granted which determine a Nitrogen Discharge Allowance for an individual property, shall:
    1. have a common expiry date of 31 July 2036; and
    2. the consents shall provide for opportunities to review and amend the consent conditions under Section 128 of the Act, including the Nitrogen Discharge Allowance, within 12 months of new or amended rules regulating the discharge or leaching of nitrogen from land use activities in the Taupo catchment becoming operative in terms of Clause 20(1) of the First Schedule to the RMA.

To achieve Objectives 1, 2 and 3

Policy 4: Reduce nitrogen outputs from land use activities and wastewater

By 2020, implement and complete actions that will ensure, over the long term, the permanent removal from the Lake Taupo catchment of 20 percent of total annual manageable load of nitrogen leached from land use activities and wastewater.

Policy 5: Review of Nitrogen Reduction Target and its Method of Achievement

Review of the Policy 4 nitrogen removal target and its method of achievement to be commenced by June 2018 having regard to:

  1. The water quality of the Lake in terms of the water quality characteristics tabulated in Objective 1, and water quality in inflowing tributaries and groundwater.
  2. The cumulative total amount of nitrogen leaching from all land uses within the Taupo Catchment and the nitrogen loads reaching the Lake from other.
  3. The reductions in nitrogen leaching from land use within the catchment that have been achieved by the activities of the Lake Taupo Protection Trust and other measures.
  4. The reduction in the amount of nitrogen discharged from wastewater systems
  5. The current estimates of the nitrogen load already in transit to the lake in surface water and groundwater as a result of manageable land use activities within the catchment.
  6. The need to determine whether the nitrogen removal target should be increased in light of matters (a) to (e) above in recognition of the fact that while a figure of 20 percent is appropriate over the ten year life of the Plan, scientific opinion in 2007 was is that in the longer term a figure in the range of 30 percent to 40 percent may be more appropriate.
  7. The need to determine whether Policy 4 should be achieved by regulatory or non-regulatory methods. Should regulatory methods be required, consideration shall be given to the options available for the reduction of nitrogen leaching from existing land uses and other potential land uses within in the catchment during the relevant planning period.

Policy 6: Phosphorus and water quality

Ensure phosphorus discharges from land do not get to levels where they could adversely affect water quality in Lake Taupo and inflowing tributaries, and ensure management practices are sufficient to continue to avoid adverse effects.

Policy 7: Landowner involvement in catchment management

Promote sound working relationships between landowners in the catchment and Waikato Regional Council, that:

  1. Ensure compliance with regulation
  2. Confirm that the regulatory auditing process is fair and transparent
  3. Ensure landowners have access to relevant information about current research and development initiatives, nitrogen management practices and overall progress in achieving the Lake target
  4. Assist landowners to identify, define and implement nitrogen management practices and new technology that is relevant to their business and their property nitrogen limit
  5. Assist the process of mutual understanding between the parties, and the joint development of solutions.

Policy 8: Determining Applications under Rule 3.10.5.9

When considering applications for resource consent under Rule 3.10.5.9 (Non-complying Activity Rule – Land uses and associated discharges of nitrogen to land that do not Comply with Rules 3.10.5.1 – 3.10.5.8) the consent authority shall have regard to:

  1. The need to generally avoid any long term increase in the volume of nitrogen entering the Lake over and above that which was occurring during the July 2001 to June 2005 benchmark period;
  2. The effectiveness of any mitigation services or works proposed by the applicant to offset potential increases in the amount of nitrogen leaching from the applicant’s land in recognition of (a) above;
  3. Where the proposed mitigation services or works described under b) above will not offset all potential increases in the amount of nitrogen leaching from the applicant's land, in terms of potential adverse effects on the applicant's economic wellbeing, whether the land in question would be rendered incapable of reasonable use if the application is declined;
  4. The acceptability of using alternative nutrient leaching models if those models are demonstrated to provide results of a comparable robustness to those produced using the OVERSEERTM model in recognition of (a) above;
  5. In all cases, the cumulative effect of applications previously granted under Rule 3.10.5.10 in terms of the total cumulative annual mass load of increased nitrogen discharges that have been authorised under the Rule relative to the 20 percent of total annual manageable load of nitrogen leached from farming land use activities and wastewater to be removed from the Lake Taupo Catchment by 2020.

Policy 9: Cap nitrogen outputs from wastewater sources

Ensure new or existing domestic on-site and community wastewater systems do not cause an increase in leaching of wastewater nitrogen to the Lake.

To achieve Objective 3

Policy 10: Domestic wastewater management in Near-shore Zone*

Ensure new on-site and community domestic wastewater systems within the Lake Taupo Near-shore Zone achieve a high standard of nitrogen and pathogen removal, and that existing domestic wastewater systems within the Near-shore Zone are reticulated if practicable, or upgraded if they are likely to cause increased concentrations of nitrogen or wastewater pathogens in shallow near-shore waters.

To achieve Objective 4

Policy 11: Papakainga and Marae Wastewater Discharges

Notwithstanding Policies 9 and 10, provide for the development of new on-site wastewater servicing for papakainga housing or Marae buildings provided that:

  1. Additional wastewater nitrogen is offset where practicable and minimised where it cannot be offset;
  2. The cumulative effect of additional nitrogen leaching as a result of this policy is inconsequential in terms of Objective 1;
  3. Near shore effects are avoided.

Policy 12: Public Fund to share costs of reducing nitrogen from rural land in the Lake Taupo catchment

Ensure a public fund assists research and development of low nitrogen leaching land uses and management alternatives, and contributes to a permanent reduction in nitrogen outputs from farming land use activities. The administration of a public fund that is contributed to by local, regional and national communities, shall follow the guiding principles of:

  1. Cost effectiveness
  2. Certainty of permanent nitrogen removal
  3. No adverse environmental consequences
  4. Maximum nitrogen removal in minimum timeframe
  5. Open and transparent process.

Policy 13: Effectiveness of the Public Fund

Review progress of the public fund after 2010 and initiate changes to the mechanism for achieving Objective 4 if substantial progress has not been made on Policies 4 and 12 by that time. The following factors will be considered during the review:

  1. The extent to which agreements in process have achieved the 20 percent Nitrogen reduction target
  2. The extent to which the fund has been efficient and effective in achieving permanent nitrogen removal and whether modifications to the criteria are necessary
  3. The extent to which the administration of the fund has been efficient and effective and whether modification to the representation, structure or reporting are necessary.

Policy 14: Nitrogen Trading (Offsetting)

Permit the transfer of Nitrogen Discharge Allowances around the catchment of Lake Taupo, by ensuring any increases in nitrogen leaching are offset by corresponding and equivalent reductions in nitrogen leaching within the Lake Taupo catchment

Explanation and Principal Reasons for Adopting Policies 1 to 14

Policy 1: Identification of Lake Taupo as an Outstanding Waterbody in the Waikato Region. Outstanding natural features are considered a matter of national importance under s6 b) of the Resource Management Act 1991. The water body of Lake Taupo is an outstanding natural feature in the Region. The values and characteristics listed in the policy are exceptionally high in Lake Taupo and its surrounding margins, inflowing streams and wetlands. In addition, the 2020 Taupo-nui-a-Tia Action Plan identifies the Lake and its catchment as having a number of aspects highly valued by Ngati Tuwharetoa and the wider community. By identifying Lake Taupo as an outstanding waterbody, appropriate recognition can be afforded to it in all aspects of management.

Policy 2: Tangata whenua values. It is appropriate that the relationship Ngati Tuwharetoa has with the Lake be a key consideration in determining how protecting Lake Taupo can be achieved. Ngati Tuwharetoa are kaitiaki of the Lake, owners of the Lake bed and the catchment of the Lake is within their rohe or tribal area. They are a partner with local and central government regarding Lake management and will continue to be involved in future decision-making processes that relate to effects on resources of concern for tangata whenua.

Policy 3: Cap nitrogen outputs from land in the catchment. Policy 3 caps nitrogen loads on the land at ‘existing’ levels so that there will be no incremental increases in the future. The policy ensures nitrogen is capped on individual properties by setting an initial allowance or ‘allocation’ of nitrogen, based on recent historical nitrogen leaching output (2001-2005). The process of nitrogen allocation is made explicit in the two sub clauses. Part a) refers to low nitrogen leaching activities such as forestry and land with very low stocking levels or fertiliser application being able to continue, as long as basic standards are met. Part b) will apply to typical farming activities, and sets out how initial allocation or ‘benchmarking’ of nitrogen is allocated per property, and how land use activities shall be managed on an ongoing basis. Part c) recognises that any consents granted in the process of nitrogen allocation should be of a sufficient duration to enable farmers to realise the value of investments made during the consented period, while not compromising Council’s ability to give effect to any revisions to Plan provisions made in future Plan reviews.

Policy 4: Reduce Nitrogen Outputs from Farming Land Use Activities and Wastewater. Policy 4 focuses on the nitrogen leached from current land uses and wastewater, rather than the amount of nitrogen measured in the Lake. The amount to be removed is intended to equal nitrogen load increases already in transit in groundwater (known colloquially as “the load to come”). It will ensure that the slowly rising total annual load of nitrogen is reduced back down to a sustainable level to protect Lake water quality over the long-term. Current scientific opinion suggests that the “load to come” ranges from 30 percent to 40 percent of manageable nitrogen currently being leached. However, it is estimated that only 5 percent of manageable nitrogen currently being leached is likely to enter the Lake by 2020 (or around 15% of the total “load to come”). These estimates take account of the fact that not all of the nitrogen discharged in the catchment travels towards the Lake, due to nitrogen dissipating through chemical and biological processes collectively called ‘nitrogen attenuation’. The other aspect in estimating the amount of nitrogen which needs to be removed is that only human generated sources that can be managed downwards are taken into account, because natural sources of nitrogen to the Lake cannot be reduced further. Manageable sources originate from farming activities and human sewage.

The policy states that 20 percent of the manageable nitrogen currently being leached from land uses needs to be permanently removed from the total, so that it does not enter the Lake. While 20 percent is less than current scientific opinion on the amount of manageable nitrogen which needs to be permanently removed, it is clear that the long term water quality of the Lake will not be compromised over the ten year life of the Plan and that the nitrogen removal target can be increased if necessary at the time the Plan provisions are reviewed. Further, there are significant social and economic costs associated with increasing this target which, pursuant to Waikato Regional Council’s section 32 analysis, cannot be justified at this time.

In respect of human sewage wastewater, installation of appropriate reticulation or upgrading of community wastewater systems is an essential component of achieving a 20 percent reduction. In respect of wastewater, a 20 percent overall reduction in nitrogen is expected to be achieved through reticulation of currently unsewered communities and upgrading community treatment plants where practicable. Determination of whether the target is reached can be made via a combination of measuring nitrogen discharges from community systems and modelling discharges from on-site systems. For the purpose of determining whether a 20 percent reduction in wastewater nitrogen has been achieved since the Variation was notified, unless more accurate information is obtained, the baseline wastewater nitrogen should be considered to be 21 tonnes per year, a figure derived from section 4.6.1 of the s32 evaluation (2007) for the Taupo Variation. Where there are community wastewater treatment plant discharges or communities serviced by on-site wastewater systems near the lakeshore, there is also increased potential for adverse effects on near-shore Lake water quality.

Policy 5: Review of Nitrogen Reduction Target. At the time that the Plan was notified in 2005 there were limitations regarding knowledge of the dynamics of nitrogen leaching processes in the catchment (including the nitrogen load still to come from historical land uses and the extent to which existing nitrogen discharges need to be reduced to achieve Objective 1); the likely effectiveness over the life of the Plan of the mechanisms in the Plan; the efficacy of the other mechanisms beyond the Plan and the RMA that have been implemented to reduce nitrogen discharge levels (including the allocation of funds to the Lake Taupo Protection Trust to achieve a 20% reduction in nitrogen discharge levels by 2020); and the availability over the life of the Plan of technologies or management techniques that would enable the impacts of nitrogen discharges to be reduced. Section 79 of the RMA 1991 requires that a review of the Plan shall be commenced no later than 10 years of it becoming operative. It is therefore appropriate that a review of the nitrogen removal target be commenced by 2018 taking into account the actual water quality of the Lake at that time, together with the amount of nitrogen leaching authorised, the amount of nitrogen leaching that has been removed by the actions of the Lake Taupo Protection Trust or otherwise, and the latest predictions of the nitrogen load still to come from historical land uses. Current scientific opinion is that there may be a need to increase the Nitrogen reduction target. Based on the above matters Waikato Regional Council will determine whether or not the original reduction target of 20% needs to be increased in the longer term, namely for the period after 2020. Waikato Regional Council will also review the methods by which the target is to be achieved, including regulatory and non-regulatory methods. Ratepayers and tax payers are funding the initial reduction target of 20% to avoid unacceptable social and economic effects on affected land users. If this fundamental premise changes in the future such that sufficient funding for any increased reduction target is not available, then all other options for achieving any further reductions will need to be reviewed. Different ways of achieving that would need to be evaluated at that time.

Policy 6: Phosphorus and water quality. Phosphorus is currently not having an adverse effect on water quality in Lake Taupo. Past catchment management by landowners and agencies to protect riparian areas and control soil erosion, as well as existing Waikato Regional Plan controls on soil disturbance, has reduced immediate risk of increased amounts of phosphorus entering the Lake. However, the strong interrelationship between nitrogen and phosphorus means that an increase in phosphorus could threaten Lake water quality. Waikato Regional Council regularly monitors Total Phosphorus as a water quality characteristic. In this way a ‘watching brief’ is kept on the nutrient.

Policy 7: Landowner involvement in catchment management. Implementation of the nitrogen cap through a regulatory regime and resource consents means a closer relationship with all landowners in the catchment will need to be established. This is particularly important for farming landowners, as determining nitrogen allowances and compliance with the rules will require a more one to one relationship between landowners and Waikato Regional Council staff than exists at the time of notification. It is important that this is recognised and the appropriate assistance and resources are provided.

Policy 8: Determining Applications under Rule 3.10.5.9. Under section 104D(1) of the RMA applicants need to show that their proposed activity will either have minor adverse effects on the environment or that it is not contrary to the objectives and policies of the Plan. One of those tests needs to be satisfied before the consent authority can grant the application. One of those tests needs to be satisfied before the consent authority can grant the application. If considered in isolation, it is possible that the potential adverse effects of any increased discharge of nitrogen from a single property could be argued to be minor in a catchment wide context. This could undermine the intent of the Plan with regard to capping nitrogen discharges at existing levels and consequently policy guidance is required on the matters that need to be taken into account when considering and deciding such applications.

The objectives and policies in the Plan give specific guidance on achieving a catchment-wide cap on discharges of nitrogen to the Lake. Consequently Policy 8(a) provides that long term exceedances of the catchment-wide cap should be generally avoided, although in some situations it may be appropriate to grant short term discharges of nitrogen that would breach the catchment-wide cap. This may for example be for the purposes of research and testing of new potential mitigation services or works.

Policy 8(b) recognises that avoiding breaches of the cap can be achieved through the use of effective mitigations measures.

Policy 8(c) recognises that in some exceptional circumstances it may be acceptable to breach the catchment-wide cap on a long term basis, but only where the resultant land would be rendered incapable of reasonable use.

Policy 8(d) provides flexibility for consent applicants to demonstrate that they are not breaching the catchment-wide cap through the use of nutrient leaching models other than OVERSEER™.

Finally, Policy 8(e) recognises that in all cases the cumulative amount of additional nitrogen discharges authorised in the catchment (relative to the catchment-wide cap) should be taken into account as this will have a direct impact on the achievement of the nitrogen reduction target in accordance with Policy 4 and therefore the long term water quality objective, Objective 1.

Policy 9: Cap nitrogen outputs from wastewater sources. Policy 9 supports Objective 1 by ensuring that wastewater discharges from new on-site or community systems do not result in additional nitrogen leaching to the Lake. Existing wastewater systems are also to be managed so that even if wastewater volumes are increased (such as due to expanding a community treatment plant), this does not result in additional nitrogen leaching to the Lake. This could be achieved by such methods as increasing nitrogen removal efficiency of the treatment or disposal system, or by offsetting increases by reducing other nitrogen sources.

Policy 10: Domestic wastewater management in Near-shore Zone. Nitrogen and wastewater pathogens leaching from wastewater systems near the Lake edge can have localised effects on the Lake’s near-shore waters, increasing the risk of algal slimes, weed growth, unpleasant odours and health risks. These adverse effects degrade the recreational and amenity values associated with the Lake edge. Scientific research undertaken on these effects from wastewater systems suggests that conventional on-site domestic wastewater systems, particularly where there are many systems in close proximity, should not be located within 200 metres of the Lake edge. A Near-shore Zone has been defined where new on-site wastewater systems will need to be capable of a high standard of nitrogen and pathogen removal. The Near-shore Zone also includes all properties within lakeshore communities identified for sewerage reticulation upgrading. Where it is impracticable to reticulate systems in the Near-shore Zone (such as may be the case for isolated systems) these systems will need to be upgraded if they are likely to cause an increase in nitrogen or wastewater pathogens in shallow near-shore waters.

Policy 11: Papakainga and Marae Wastewater Discharges. Sections 6(e) and 8 of the Resource Management Act require that the Plan recognise and provide for the relationship of Maori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands, water, sites, waahi tapu, and other taonga, and take into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. Papakainga and associated Marae are a unique form of settlement, which allow hapu to provide for their social, cultural and economic well-being, are located on ancestral land where there has been a long period of continuous occupation, and are recognised by the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 and the Maori Land Court. In these respects, it is important that the protections for Lake Taupo water quality do not prevent Maori from providing for future housing needs on papakainga land, and expanding Marae facilities. As many papakainga and Marae areas do not have a nitrogen source which can be used to offset additional wastewater nitrogen, there needs to be a special provision to allow new wastewater systems on papakainga and Marae land, even if the additional wastewater nitrogen cannot be completely offset.

The special provision is by way of a specific restricted discretionary rule for new papakainga wastewater systems and wastewater systems servicing associated Marae buildings. While the intention of this provision is to provide for new on-site wastewater servicing for papakainga housing and Marae buildings, the policy recognises that use of the rule must not threaten the ability to achieve Objective 1 and Objective 3. For the purpose of determining whether the cumulative effects as a result of the provision are more than inconsequential, the periodic assessments required by Method 3 will be referred to.

Policy 12: Public Fund to share costs of reducing nitrogen from rural land in the Lake Taupo catchment. A public fund of 81.5 million dollars contributed by district, regional and national communities has been established through an extensive community and government process between 2001 and 2004. The philosophy behind the establishment of the fund is to minimise the cost of social change from interventions to achieve permanent nitrogen reduction, thus meeting Objective 3. The major portion of this fund is to achieve permanent land use change through the purchase of land or nitrogen allowances from landowners in the Lake Taupo Catchment. The aim is for the fund to reduce nitrogen leaching in the catchment by at least 20 percent over 15 years following set up of the administration of the fund in 2005. Research and development, benchmarking, and administration of the fund make up the remainder of the fund. Although the direct day to day control of the public fund is through a mechanism set up under the Local Government Act, it is important that there is general policy direction provided on the purpose of the fund.

Policy 13: Effectiveness of the Public Fund. The public fund is the component of the Lake Taupo policy framework that ensures there is a 20 percent reduction in nitrogen leached in the catchment, in a way that achieves Objective 4. Considerable public money has been invested on the mechanism of a public fund to achieve this target, therefore it is essential that the fund’s effectiveness is monitored and reviewed after a suitable amount of time has elapsed for it to be able to demonstrate progress.

Policy 14: Nitrogen Trading (Offsetting). It is appropriate to provide for some flexibility in land use management where nitrogen leaching over the whole catchment stays within the capped limits. This enables landowners to change their nitrogen discharge allowances while ensuring there are no adverse effects on Lake water quality. Nitrogen trading (or offsetting) is a mechanism that enables redistribution of nitrogen discharge allowances and land use change within the catchment.

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